Fines increasing for carpool lane cheaters in Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A new state law that increases fines for carpool lane cheaters goes into effect Sunday.

The base fine will go up by $50, meaning a first-time violator on freeways or in electronic toll lanes will be fined $186.

Second-time violators within two years will receive a fine of $336.

Those trying to trick troopers with a dummy or mannequin will have an extra $200 added to their tickets.

The Washington State Patrol has said high-occupancy vehicle lane cheating is the top complaint by commuters in Seattle's King County.

Last year in King County alone, troopers handed out more than 11,000 tickets to violators caught in the carpool lane.

Excuses, excuses

WSP Trooper Chase Van Cleave has heard just about every excuse in the book from drivers caught breaking this traffic law.

“In this area with so much traffic there’s just a lot of cars that violate that here,” said Trooper Van Cleave. “The point of that lane is to encourage people to ride together and lower the amount of people on our roads.”

One driver caught in the carpool lane without any passengers on I-5 in Tukwila says she was running late to get her son.

“I was just trying to go around the little congestion and I got bombarded,” the driver explained.

Another driver caught violating the HOV lane laws said “I was in the HOV for a short period of time and when I turned around the corner that’s when the state trooper noticed.”

“When so many people violate that law it really takes away that lane and the intended purpose,” said Trooper Van Cleave.

“Ultimately we hope it’s a deterrent so that people obey the law and don’t get in that lane unless they have the right amount of people. It keeps it going and used for its intended purpose.”